H I G H O N A H I L L T H E R E ‘ S A C A S T L E O U T A T S E A
During our nights away at Chapel House in Penzance, we made trips to Penwith, Carleon and St Michael’s Mount. Returning to the sea like we always do. Absorbing the sand and the salt and the stony pebbles; till we like the castle, feel both at one and a sore thumb. Both distinctly human; man-made and marble-cast. Yet also innately, organically biological. Both a bit of the world, but apart from it.
The castle was somewhere we’d both long been meaning to visit. Having lived in Cornwall for over five years now (and Matt not having been since he was a child) we agreed a trip was well overdue. My parents had kindly bought us National Trust memberships for our anniversary, so that got us free entry. I think it’s safe to say, along with my new penchant for gardening, Radio 4 and Classic FM: I am slowly turning into them. Plus having now made a long list of National Trust places I’d like to visit over the next 12 months, you might be seeing a lot more landscape gardens, stately homes and tea rooms on this space.
When it comes to visiting the Mount, timing is everything. To walk across the causeway, paved upon the seabed and shoreline, between high-tide and low-tide, it’s essential you time your trip between the two. Fortunately for us, the day we had spare before returning home, coincided ideally with tide times. We walked the cobbles up to the castle, with the sea on either side, just sitting beyond a bay of seaweed and shells. Breezy and bright; cool and crisp; with seabirds overhead and boats swaying in the bay; it was one those quiet turning-days that fall between seasons. Sun warming our skin, but north coastal winds keeping our coats wrapped tightly around us. It was so much of what I love about this time of year.
Matt and I wandered through each room at our own pace. Often lingering in nooks and crannies, so guided tour parties would overtake us. Leaving us alone, to the silence, soft portraits and smell of old books. To the view of the sea through the old veined windows, that caught me each time I looked. How curious it is, to glance out of an ancient castle turret and be met with the wet sprawl of the horizon!
The map room, in particular, held us for longer than most. The curling ink of old cartographers, depicting haunts we know so well in ways unknown to us. With altered spellings and now unseen landmarks; we traced relief lines like old friends. For me though, it was the gallery room towards the end that perhaps had my mind most. Hung with paintings imbued with history, myth and story; with mermaids and monks, pilgrims and gunpowder, great battles fought during the war of the Roses and of Jack the Giant Killer. My favourite image was a Neolithic depiction of Bronze Age Marazion; before the sea had filled the bay. When the land was still forest and the Mount stood without a castle. A million stories filled my mind like memories, when looking at this land now lost.
Since visiting St Michael’s Mount (and Penwith and Carleon) we’ve still been returning to the sea. To watch the waves created by Storm Ophelia. To see what eight metres of white water really looks like. To spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon on the banks of the Helford. Skimming stones by the old pub’s pier. Always back to the ocean we go; to the sand and the salt and the stony pebbles. Both a bit of the world, but still apart from it.